Low investment in sexual reproduction threatens plants adapted to phosphorus limitation

Y. Fujita, H. Olde Venterink, P.M. van Bodegom, J.C. Douma, G.W. Heil, N. Hölzel, E. Jablonska, W. Kotowski, T. Okruszko, P. Pawlikowski, P.C. de Ruiter, M.J. Wassen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

135 Citations (Scopus)


Plant species diversity in Eurasian wetlands and grasslands depends not only on productivity but also on the relative availability of nutrients, particularly of nitrogen and phosphorus1–4. Here we show that the impacts of nitrogen:phosphorus stoichiometry on plant species richness can be explained by selected plant life-history traits, notably by plant investments in growth versus reproduction. In 599 Eurasian siteswithherbaceous vegetationwe examined the relationship between the local nutrient conditions and community-mean life-history traits. We found that compared with plants in nitrogen-limited communities, plants in phosphorus-limited communities invest little in sexual reproduction (for example, less investment in seed, shorter flowering period, longer lifespan) and have conservative leaf economy traits (that is, a low specific leaf area and a high leaf dry-matter content). Endangered species weremore frequent in phosphorus-limited ecosystems and they too invested little in sexual reproduction. The results provide new insight into how plant adaptations to nutrient conditions can drive the distribution of plant species in natural ecosystems and can account for the vulnerability of endangered species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-86
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • vegetation
  • flora
  • species diversity
  • reproductive behaviour
  • ecosystems
  • wetlands
  • bog plants
  • soil plant relationships
  • nitrogen
  • phosphate
  • water management
  • endangered species
  • europe
  • asia
  • n-p stoichiometry
  • biological stoichiometry
  • endangered plants
  • mineral-nutrition
  • community biomass
  • european flora
  • life-history
  • patterns
  • traits


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